12/15/2007 05:34 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Getting Serious About Government Customer Service via the Net

Hey, Barack's reminded us that the Net could be an effective means of making local government more responsive.

New York and San Francisco have both started to do that with 311 systems. They allow you, via phone or the Net to do big stuff that was more difficult to do before.

For example, you can get a pothole filled, or find out how to get a license.

This is happening also in Britain, where open source methods might be resulting in better approaches: is a site that anyone in Britain can use to report a problem of the graffitti, pot hole or dumped trash variety, and get it reported immediately to their local government, no matter where they are. It is built by the usability-obsessed open source hackers at in the UK, and conceals a democratic heart beneath a simple exterior. Problems reported become public (instead of vanishing into a black hole), can be commented on, syndicated, queried etc. Users also get surveyed about the status of their problem, and are helped to engage directly with their local politicians if they aren't successful getting things fixed first time.

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